The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)

‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

By Cloe Logan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer

An overcrowded workplace in downtown Vancouver during COVID-19 prompted long-time server Taesa Hodel to look for greener pastures.

After starting a new job on Commercial Drive, where she says she experienced a sense of community and support from locals, she has now been laid off for the second time since the beginning of the pandemic.

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining. Originally set to end April 20, the health order affecting the food industry will likely stay in place until sometime in May.

Hodel got let go during the initial coronavirus shutdown last spring when she was working as a server on Vancouver’s Granville Strip. She went back to that job when the restrictions were lifted, but says the area felt too unsafe and got a new job at The Dime on Commercial Drive.

“At the (Granville) bars, you just hear that so many of their servers were getting sick, and it just felt like it was passing around really quickly down there,” she said.

“I feel like with the shutdown of clubs and nightlife like that, it just brought out a whole different side of Vancouver.”

Twenty-four-year-old Hodel says tensions ran high downtown — hordes of people packed streets during holidays and serving staff were having to put themselves at risk to control unruly customers. Switching to a smaller workplace out of the downtown core in January significantly changed Hodel’s pandemic experience, and she found solace among co-workers and regulars.

“The only real way that we really got through, especially as servers, was because of the community support. We had regulars who’ve been coming there for years (who) dug into their own pockets, really, to kind of take care of us,” she said.

“… That is another thing that’s really been hurting people who … work along Granville Street, that (they) don’t have that kind of community support around, especially the bars.”

Hodel says her job is secured for whenever indoor dining resumes, but that the stop and start has made her question staying in the industry. And with Hodel and many of her colleagues being last on the province’s vaccine rollout plan, that has her nervous.

“There’s a lot of instability. I’ve been wanting to get out of working in bars for a while, but this just adds to it,” she said.

“It really shows you that there isn’t much support for the restaurant industry.”

Since the circuit breaker was announced, some new supports have become available. Operations affected by the restrictions can now apply for the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant offered through the province — $1,000 to $10,000 will be available for each business, with the bulk of restaurants set to receive $5,000 until the funding runs out. There has been a municipal response, too. Surrey city council has moved forward on its “Parking to Patios” initiative, which will allow restaurants to apply for patio permits for free while waiving the usual fees, as well as the Small- and Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant.

Any support is appreciated, but Hodel points out that $5,000 probably won’t make or break a restaurant. That’s one night of sales for many businesses.

It’s not just restaurants in the larger centres struggling with the uncertainty the third wave brings — Jinu James, manager of Mughal Garden Indian Cuisine in Merritt, says the recent closure has meant the elimination of almost all their sales. The local population sits at around 7,000, and James says they seem to prefer dining in.

“It’s too windy, you’re covered in mountains, it’s always a little bit too cold to sit on the patio,” he said. “No one is coming to the pub, the restaurants … it’s all the same situation.”

Tourism is also a big piece of the puzzle for the restaurant. Merritt, nestled in the Nicola Valley, is the connector to the interior of B.C. and its highways. Now, with the weather warming up, James said the restaurant would usually be full of tourists. He said he’s aware of the grant, but says the owner handles the finances, so he’s not sure how much of an effect it will have on Mughal Garden.

Applications for the grant are now open and regardless of challenges, Mark von Schellwitz, Western Canada vice-president for Restaurants Canada, says the money is welcome relief.

“COVID-19 has presented significant challenges for everyone in the restaurant industry,” said von Schellwitz.

“We appreciate that the B.C. government continues to find ways to help the hospitality sector. This new grant will be of great benefit to many restaurants as they continue to adapt and change in response to the pandemic.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

Revelstoke’s Mayor Gary Sulz getting his COVID-19 vaccination on April 5. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke is leading B.C.’s interior on vaccinations: Interior Health

Approximately 70% of the community has first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services responded to a fire at the Revelstoke Community Energy Corporation site Feb. 11, 2021. It was the fourth fire at the facility since it was built in 2005. (Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services photo)
Future uncertain for City of Revelstoke owned company

RCEC is using a backup system to provide heating after a fire forced the facility offline

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

City of Vernon Coun. Dalvir Nahal proposed two blocks of Main Street be closed to bolster recovery for downtown businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Vernon’s ‘support local’ Main Street closure would cost city $24K, staff say

Bylaw costs, loss of parking revenue and equipment logistics behind price tag

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

Peachland resident and cleanup volunteer Lloyd Stinson Sotas holds up a discarded TV riddled with bullet holes. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
PHOTOS: Peachland residents clean up community watershed

More than 70 people gave back to Mother Earth by assisting with the cleanup

Officials are surveying the streets of Vernon to get a better sense of the issue of homelessness in the city, as part of the province’s point-in-time homeless count for 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Province conducts homeless count in Vernon

It’s the first time Vernon has been included in the provincial homeless count

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Most Read